Lake McQueeney

A drone captures Lake McQueeney and Treasure Island on Aug. 26, 2019.

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority has a plan in motion to preserve the wildlife within the lakes and rivers after the dewatering. However, to local experts, conservation is not an easy task. 

The plan to drain the lakes on Sept. 16 has left the community angry, confused and concerned about what will happen to the wildlife and vegetation that thrives on the waterways once the lakes return to just a river channel. 

GBRA Communications Manager Patty Gonzalez said the organization is working closely with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to ensure the lifeforms on the Guadalupe Valley lakes are preserved in the dewatering process. 

“Some of the measures that we have taken include aquatic habitat mapping prior to the drawdown, planning for future fish and wildlife habitat restoration to be conducted on exposed lands during the watering and within the lakes upon refilling, and informing the rates of lake lowering that will allow fish and other aquatic life to follow the water line back to the main river channel,” she said. 

Preservative plans are already in motion and will continue to come into action throughout, and after the draining process, Gonzales said.

“The water levels will be down until we can acquire the funding needed to replace the spill gates,” she said. “So, I can’t put a time table as to when the lakes will be refilled or how long the plans will go on for.” 

McQueeney arborist and owner of AJ’s Tree Care AJ Thomas said the move to drain the lakes is a frustrating one. However, he believes the impact the draining will have on the lakes and riverside greenery will be minimal. 

“I believe the government could come in and fix them (dams) right away if they wanted,” Thomas said. “It didn’t take that long to build Hoover Dam, and these are significantly smaller. Unfortunately, I guess it’s just not that big of a deal to some folks to get it done. As far as the vegetation goes, it will replenish itself, no doubt about that. But I don’t know how long they are going to let it grow before they’re going to try to fill it back in.”

Although the vegetation will continue to grow, the fate of waterside trees is uncertain to the arborist. 

“The cypress trees are dying all along the lake bank. They’re falling to pieces right now because they already have no water,” Thomas said. 

It’s not just the cypress trees that threatened by the plan to dewater. The oak trees, specifically live oaks, are poised to suffer the same fate, Thomas said.

“Who knows what’s going to happen to them in the next few years after all of this?” he said.

Longtime Seguin resident, agricultural entomologist and ecologist Paul Martin says the damage to the aquatic life could be significant. 

“It’s not just [damaging] to the human economy, but nature’s economy,” Martin said.” People are talking about the loss of cypress trees, and obviously, you would lose that, that’s for sure. Also all the benefits like recreation on the lakes and water irrigation, you know, are going to be lost, and a lot of the aquatic fish and amphibians, and all the biota that are associated with the lake are also going to be lost.”

Martin claims that In some ways the draining of the lakes could be seen as a “reset button” for the wildlife in the area. 

“There are so many things that we’ve done to these rivers,” Martin said. “The natural river system had co-evolved with the biotic community for thousands and millions of years and what we’ve done in terms of 50 to 100 years is we’ve come in and straightened the rivers, we put dams in, we built structures on the side, and all of that tears up the dynamic homeostatic symbiosis.” 

Although the positives of refreshing the lake and river ecosystems are evident, Martin says the best way to ensure a healthy ecosystem is to leave the lakes alone. 

“I’m not so much for these dramatic changes like draining and refilling,” Martin said. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to do a lot of draining. I think if you’re gonna have the lakes its best to maintain a stable lake and take preventative efforts to just keep the lakes clean and leave that aquatic environment to stabilize.”

Martin looks to other lakes from around Texas to gauge the dangers that may present themselves in the dewatering. 

“At Town Lake in Austin there was a persistent pesticide in the lake, and these pesticides had chlorine in them,” Martin said. “They found that they had quite a bit of pollution from this pesticide. What they decided to do was to leave the sediment in Town Lake and not stir it up so that it didn’t get it into the water. So when you go in there, and you drain you don’t always know what kind of other problems you’re gonna create.” 

Because of these unforeseeable dangers, Martin says it takes a team to ensure things aren’t lost or destroyed beyond repair. 

“All these decisions are very complex, and you need someone like GBRA with a good army of scientists that understand the system to help you in making really good critically thought out decisions,” he said.

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